Twice Colonized opens Hot Docs 2023 | Photo by Ulannaq Ingemann

Twice Colonized to Open Hot Docs Festival

Hot Docs announces full line-up with 214 documentaries

10 mins read

A Hot Docs hero returns to the festival as Twice Colonized is set to open this year’s event. Hot Docs announced that the film about Inuk activist Aaju Peter would kick off the 2023 festival and mark a Toronto homecoming for Peter after Angry Inuk, which chronicled her campaign to preserve the Inuit seal hunt, won the audience award at the 2016 fest. Twice Colonized follows Peter as she continues her fight for Inuit, Indigenous, and First Nations communities to have a say in discussions about their own affairs. The Danish-Canadian co-production is directed by Dane Lin Alluna and features Angry Inuk director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril among its producers. Twice Colonized premiered in the World Cinema Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Alluna and other guests will be on hand at the Hot Docs premiere on April 27 ahead of Twice Colonized’s theatrical release on May 12.

“We knew from the moment we watched this potent film that it was the right doc to open our milestone 30th-anniversary Festival,” said Hot Docs Artistic Director Shane Smith in a statement from the festival. “Twice Colonized doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable truths as it sharply addresses Canada and Denmark’s colonizer past and present. To host the Canadian premiere of this film on Hot Docs Festival 2023 Opening Night to Canadian audiences is a step towards Canada taking accountability. We are thankful to director Lin Alluna, subject Aaju Peter, and the producers of Twice Colonized for bringing this urgent and crucial story to life.”

Hot Docs released the full line-up today for the festival that marks the 30th anniversary of its founding. The festival announced 214 selections drawn from a pool of 2848 submissions.  The programming includes 70 world premieres and 56 Canadian films. Hot Docs also features 53% of its official selections directed by women.

Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun

Canadian Spectrum

Titles in this year’s Canadian Spectrum include the Big Sky Documentary Festival award winner Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun, directed by Banchi Hanuse. The visually striking film observes a Siksika woman as she conquers the male-dominated field of Indian Relay riding. Hot Docs also gets in the saddle with Veranda, directed by Dominique Chaumont. The film rides through the Andes with a gaucho determined to see if the grass is indeed greener on the other side.

Director Sherien Barsoum’s Cynara, meanwhile, offers an innovative twist on true crime with its portrait of a Toronto woman accused of killing her daughter and her fight to clear her name. Denys Desjardins’ J’ai place ma mère brings a personal study of loss during the COVID-19 lockdowns, while Zack Russell’s Someone Lives Here offers a timely character-driven portrait of Toronto’s housing crisis and one man’s effort to deliver aid outside a broken system. Brittany Farhat’s Jully Talk: Love Lives Here, on the other hand, profiles the titular Toronto alt-band as it navigates performances amid global lockdowns.

Also screening in the Canadian Spectrum is Undertaker for Life! directed by Georges Hannan. The NFB film brings an unexpectedly humorous study of the rituals of the funeral home through which morticians prepare the deceased for their journey six feet under. Similarly, Subterranean, directed by Francois-Xavier De Ruydts, goes deep underground with its adventure alongside cave divers. Environmental stories come in Silvicola, directed by Jean-Philippe Marquis, which explores the trees of the Pacific Northwest. Tales of family abroad fuel Upstream, directed by Xin Liu, and Mother Saigon, directed by Khoa Lê. The former is an experimental meditation on family and migration, while the latter navigates the family dynamics of LGBTQ+ people in Vietnam.

Madeleine | Hot Docs

After unpacking the positive dynamics of fandom in The Grizzlie Truth, director Kat Jayme joins forces with Asia Youngman to consider the rioting that followed the Vancouver Canucks’ 2011 Stanley Cup loss in I’m Just Here for the Riot. Finally, director Justine Harbonnier’s Caiti Blues rounds out the Canadian competition at Hot Docs with its portrait of a singer chasing the American Dream. The Canadian Spectrum also includes 12 short films from directors Aisha Jamal, Yasmine Mathurin, Katia Kurtness, Kelly O’Brien, Megan Kyak-Monteith and Taqralik Partridge, Myriam François, Holly Márie Parnell, Megan Durnford, Chadi Bennani, Sebastian Ko, JR Reid, and Raquel Sancinetti, whose Madeleine won the FIPRESCI Prize at Saguenay’s REGARD Festival on Sunday. Hot Docs will add two prizes to the Canadian Spectrum competition in honour of filmmakers whose works were staples in previous line-ups with the Bill Nemtin Award for Best Social Impact Documentary and the John Kastner Award.

Other Canadian features at Hot Docs include, but are not limited to, Rama Rau’s witchfest Coven, Steve J. Adams and Sean Horlor’s SXSW Satanic panic hit Satan Wants You, Cam Christiansen’s exploration of ecstasy in Echo of Everything, Omar Mouallem’s super-sized study of an unlikely fast food empire in Lebanese Burger Mafia, Terra Long’s poetic essay film Feet in Water, Head on Fire, and Philippe Falardeau’s doc series Lac-Mégantic.

Milisuthando | Photo by Milisuthando Bongela

Big Ideas Series and Festival Favourites

Hot Docs once again invites audiences to enjoy extended post-screening conversations with the Scotiabank Big Ideas series. The spotlight features five docs previously announced in the festival: Sundance opener It’s Only Life After All will bring Indigo Girls musician Emily Saliers and director Alexandria Baumbach to the fest; chef/author Ruth Reichl and director Laura Gabbert for Food and Country; fashion icon Bethann Hardison with director Frédéric Tcheng with their acclaimed Sundance doc Invisible Beauty; director/subject Ella Glendining with her consideration of ableism in Is There Anybody Out There?, which also screened at Sundance; and Canada’s first female Jewish Supreme Court Judge, Rosalie Abella, with director Barry Avrich for their doc Without Precedent.

The festival also brings the Canadian or international premieres for several acclaimed films from this year’s festival circuit. Among them is the powerful study of South Africa’s apartheid and racial divides in Milisuthando, directed by Milisuthando Bongela. Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize winner for World Cinema, The Eternal Memory by director Maite Alberdi, meanwhile, brings its touching look at a couple dealing with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The festival also brings both winners for the director prizes at Sundance: Luke Lorentzen’s intimate verité portrait of an aspiring chaplain in A Still Small Voice and Anna Hints’ unparalleled glimpse at a space in which women heal together in Smoke Sauna Sisterhood.

On the international front, Hot Docs hosts the world premieres of Soňa G. Lutherová’s study of gender transition A Happy Man and Elena Kairytė’s portrait of a woman on the move in Roberta in the Changing Face of Europe programme. The section presented in partnership with European Film Promotion includes docs from Sweden, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Ireland, and Czech Republic. Meanwhile, documentaries in the festival’s Made in Ukraine series include Sundance Audience Award winner 20 Days in Mariupol and Iron Butterflies. This year’s other thematic programme at Hot Docs is Human Kind, which favours stories about the lost art of connection. Among them is the Israeli-Canadian co-production The Longest Goodbye, director Ido Mizrahy’s poignant study of space exploration and isolation. The series also feature festival favourite Penny Lane’s look at altruism in Confessions of a Good Samaritan and the world premiere of Megan Wennberg’s punnily titled portrait of a swim team in its golden years in Unsyncable.

The full line-up is available on Hot Docs’ website. This year’s festival runs April 27 to May 12.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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